Cultural Jet lag – Museums in/and the region

Lecture by Alenka Gregoric |  Cultural Jet lag – Museums in/and the region | Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje, 18 December 2017, 20.00 h.

Press to Exit Project Space together with Museum of Contemporary Art invites you to the lecture by Alenka Gregorič, artistic director and curator at the City Art Gallery Ljubljana, Slovenia

One of the oldest and the most developed organisational structures of the art system is a museum. The basis for the professional working of a museum – collection policy, programming and exhibition activities, public communications, publishing, education, and marketing - is a coherently conceived vision. But today, when museums seem to focus principally on ways and means of marketing their collections and collection-related content, it is necessary to be aware of the dangers of marketing-based approaches in the conception of museum polices.

Looking at the pitfalls of the Western models of art institutions, let us mention the most conspicuous element – museum architecture, which, since the 1990s, has triumphed over museum content. The 1990s was a decade when star architect designed museums that led to the paradigm of architectural predominance, namely architectural design as an envelope that, instead of complementing, competes with or even overpowers what is inside the building. Terry Smith describes this type of architecture as “destination architecture”, architecture as entertainment or amusement park, the goal of which is to transform both contemporary architecture and art into attractions. In addition to attractive, “selfie-friendly” architecture, such “wow-factor” museums also offer admission-free amenities as an important part of the interior: spaces for socializing, restaurants, stores.

In the West, museums were built as a new type of amusement parks, following the model of shopping malls. In the countries of the former Yugoslavia, shopping malls were built as the new amusement parks. Due to the perennial lack of funds for museum construction, most museums in the region have paradoxically avoided the hazards of Western trends: the model of the museum as infrastructure for leisure-time activities and the reckless policies of urban renewal of degraded areas with attractive museum complexes in the role of new amusement parks.

In the most part, museums thus remain “trapped” in old or out-dated pieces of architecture, which do not allow for contemporary expansiveness or spectacular approaches in architecture, and force museums to focus instead on their collections, exhibition activities, and the topicality of content. As a result, they are relatively uninteresting for international art tourism and its growing audience, but they can occupy conspicuous places on the world map of significant art institutions as a result of their outstanding programmes and the conceptions of their exhibition policies. Many museums in the region of the former Yugoslavia conceived and developed curatorial and exhibition policies by looking at their own specificities, and also analysing and critically appraising established Western examples. 

Alenka Gregorič is an art historian, curator and writer. Since July 2003 till 2009 she worked as artistic director of Škuc Gallery, Ljubljana, curating, organizing and co-ordinating all the program activities. From 2009 she has been the artistic director and curator at City Art Gallery Ljubljana and CC Tobacco 001 (both part of Museum and galleries of Ljubljana). In 2009 she was curator of the Slovenian pavilion at 53. Venice Biennial and co-curator of 28. Graphic Biennial Ljubljana, in 2011 she was co-curator (with Galit Eilat) of the 52.October Salon in Belgrade, in 2014 one of the curators for the Curated by_Vienna. She curated numerous solo and group exhibitions in Slovenia and abroad. In addition to curating exhibitions she has written numerous essays, reviews and articles for various artists’ books, catalogues and other publications and edited many catalogues and artists’ books. The responsibility of those producing contemporary art and of cultural institutions, as well as their role in contemporary society, constitute the focal point of her interests.

The event is supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Skopje.